June Dig Diary Part 1

Welcome to the latest edition of Waterloo Uncovered’s dig diary.

By Hattie Ford

We have so much news to bring you this summer that we’ve decided to split our monthly Dig Diary into two fortnightly updates! Read on to find out what we’ve been up to over the last month…

In this edition:

  • Find out how you can help build a colossal model of the Battle of Waterloo in 20mm;
  • An update on our 2.6 Challenge fundraising campaign;
  • The launch of our Lockdown Lectures series.

Help make Waterloo in miniature

Captain William Siborne famously created two dioramas of the Battle of Waterloo; one currently housed in the National Army Museum in London, and another housed at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Inspired by these models, Major General James Cowan, a trustee of Waterloo Uncovered, is creating a new, large scale and historically accurate model of Waterloo using 20mm figures. His model will be produced in the same scale as Siborne’s diorama in the Royal Armouries, but unlike this model, James’ will cover the entire battlefield, capturing the battle and the position of the troops at roughly 6pm. James intends to create a model which accurately reflects our knowledge of the battle today, including the discoveries archaeologists and historians have made since Siborne’s models were constructed:

The vision is a true reflection of the scale of the Battle of Waterloo at its high point, incorporating the latest scholarly sources, and in homage to the original model by Siborne.”

Major General James Cowan
Hundreds of miniature military figurines fight in a miniature replica of the killing zone at Hougoumont, complete with a tiny fence, garden and trees
Fighting in the Killing Zone at Hougoumont.

When completed, his ambitious and detailed model will cover an area around two-thirds of the size of a tennis court, and will contain around 100,000 individually painted figures engaged in combat. James intends to make his model as historically and geographically accurate as possible through careful research; using sketches, postcards and maps contemporary to the battle, old photographs and Google Maps, first-hand accounts of the battle and detail from other models including Siborne’s. His model will incorporate the accounts of British, Dutch, German, French and Prussian soldiers, in contrast to Siborne, who corresponded mainly with surviving British officers. James has also consulted historians specialising in the Napoleonic Wars, including Gareth Glover, Nick Lipscombe and Andrew Field for advice on the accuracy of his model, and has liaised with Waterloo Uncovered to see how our own archaeological discoveries at Hougoumont and Mont-Saint-Jean can be incorporated into his model. He makes many of his sources and references, as well as regular updates on the progress of the model, available on his blog, which can be found here: http://generalpicton.blogspot.com/

Miniature French troops, some with drums or weapons, march in front of a tiny model of La Belle Alliance Inn
Troops gathered outside La Belle Alliance.

His father, Edward, creates the highly detailed buildings on the model, including the Chateau of Hougoumont, La Haye Sainte farmhouse, La Belle Alliance Inn and Plancenoit village. They are aided by an international team of volunteer painters who are helping bring the model to life, and have received several generous donations of figures. The project has also received funding and support from Waterloo 200, the body dedicated to commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. In June of 2021, sections of the model will be displayed at the National Army Museum alongside a programme of lectures and films in a collaboration between James, the NAM and Waterloo Uncovered; we will bring you more details of this exciting event nearer the time.

Several miniature painted French soldiers riding horses into battle
A handful of the tens of thousands of soldiers that will bring James’ model to life.

James has made excellent progress so far, but in order to complete this ambitious model and to accurately reflect the scale of battle, more help is needed – so we want you to get involved! We’re calling all model makers, painters and war gamers – or anyone with enthusiasm and aptitude – to take on a portion of the painting. If you would like to get involved in painting, or if you could donate figures in 20mm (1/72) scale, please contact info@waterloouncovered.com.

We’re taking the 2.6 challenge!

We recently launched our brand new fundraising campaign to support our virtual Veterans’ Programme, a series of lectures and activities designed to replace the 2020 Summer Excavation postponed due to coronavirus. The 2.6 Challenge – which involves doing 2.6, 26 or 260 of anything at all to raise money – was designed to help struggling UK charities raise much needed funds in a period where mass gatherings and fundraising events have had to be cancelled. We are asking our supporters to take on the 2.6 challenge and get their friends and family to sponsor them, or to donate to our fundraiser before the 18th of June. On the 18th (the 205th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo) 10 members of our team will be completing a 26 mile relay march, which reenactor and veteran Clive Jones will finish in his period accurate Coldstream Guards uniform! Read more about the challenge and our own plans here.

Four images of Welfare officer Rod Eldridge. In each image he is wearing a different and interesting hat.
Rod Eldridge and his plethora of hats.

So far, we’ve seen an amazing amount of support from our community and our followers, and we’re grateful to everyone who has donated or taken on the challenge themselves. Over the last few weeks, the Waterloo Uncovered community have taken on a range of creative and active challenges that we hope will inspire you to take on your own! Veteran Rachel Willis will be drawing a new miniature pencil sketch every day, each related to the Battle of Waterloo, including some of the iconic sites we’ve been digging at, like Mont-Saint-Jean and Hougoumont. Veteran and WU Welfare Officer Rod Eldridge will be wearing a different hat each day for 26 days – check out some of his best above! Meanwhile, our Senior Fundraising Officer Kate Scott is cycling an amazing 26 miles every day, and veteran Liam Cocks will be cycling the equivalent of the distance from the Waterloo Uncovered office in London to the Waterloo Battlefield in Belgium over the course of the next few weeks – that’s around 260 miles!

Veteran Ben Mead walking with a weighted pack as part of his two point six challenge, wearing camouflage with a large orange Waterloo Uncovered sign on his backpack
Ben Mead Tabbing with his weighted pack.

Jason Craig and Kayleigh Topliss will be walking every day until the 18th of June, and Ben Mead and Wendy White will be Tabbing (a military term for marching with a weighted rucksack) every day for 26 days! In addition to Clive Jones, a Coldstream Guards 1815 reenactor who will be taking part in our final march for Waterloo Uncovered, we now have the French involved – or rather, the 2e Regiment d’Infanterie Legere, a UK re-enactment group that portrays French soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars. We wish the best of luck to all our supporters who have taken on creative and active challenges to help us raise money, and we are grateful to everyone who has donated so far.

We still need your help, however. It costs around £3,000 per beneficiary to run our virtual Veterans’ and Serving Personnel Programme, and to provide continued support from our Welfare Team throughout the year. Would you like to sponsor any of our participants? Can you think of a fun challenge that you could take on to help us raise money? There are still several weeks until the 2.6 Challenge ends, so it’s not too late to get involved and help us reach our target! Go to our JustGiving page now to donate or find out how you can take on the challenge: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/2point6waterloouncovered

Launching the Lockdown Lectures

Due to the coronavirus crisis, we have been unable to travel to Belgium for our annual excavation this year. As a result, Waterloo Uncovered has had to adapt our programme of education and support for veterans – so we’ve gone virtual! An international team of expert battlefield archaeologists have collaborated to produce a new series known as the Lockdown Lectures – and we’re now making them available to our supporters across our website and YouTube channel. Every week, we’ll bring you a new Lockdown Lecture from archaeologists and academics such as Time Team’s Phil Harding and WU’s archaeological directors Professor Tony Pollard and Dr Stuart Eve, alongside a range of special guests. A wide variety of topics will be covered over the coming weeks; including an introduction to the Battle of Waterloo, a beginners guide to excavation, how we can integrate cutting edge technology into archaeology, and how Phil Harding’s passion for the past has taken him from the Neolithic to the Napoleonic and from Time Team to Waterloo!

Professor Tony Pollard, Doctor Stuart Eve and Phil Harding, three of our Lockdown Lecturers
Three of our Lockdown Lecturers, Professor Tony Pollard, Dr Stuart Eve and Phil Harding.

The first Lockdown Lecture, in which Professor Tony Pollard sets the scene for the bitter and bloody fighting that consumed the Chateau of Hougoumont, is now available to view here. Make sure to check out our website or YouTube channel every Wednesday to see the latest lectures!

Coming Soon:

  • The 2.6 Challenge concludes;
  • Our 2019 Impact Report is released;
  • A teaser for our Waterloo comic strip;
  • Our Visiting Historian’s interview series begins.